First off, I’d like to apologize for not posting anything in like 5-ever, but, frankly, the state of the world has gotten me down. My mantra of late is, “They can’t be serious!” I feel like Ashton Kutcher is going to come out at any moment and tell us we’re being punked. My forehead has a permanent imprint from all the face-palming I’ve been doing.
It’s like we’ve all lost our minds. Spend half an hour on anyone’s Facebook feed and you’ll be ready to book your ticket to Australia with Alexander. Never has the world been more nasty. Never has there been so much divisiveness.
Or has there….
Everyone knows the story of Jonah. God calls. He runs. There’s this big fish. He finally does what he’s supposed to. Everyone lives happily ever after. The end. But not really. There’s another part of the story that hardly anyone talks about, and it’s found in the fourth chapter of Jonah.
A little background: God calls Jonah to prophesy to the people living in Nineveh that they’re going to destroyed because of their wickedness. Israel and Nineveh were bitter enemies, and Jonah was not a fan of this plan. So he did what any rational person would do. He ran in the complete opposite direction, and everyone knows what happens next. He ends up in Nineveh via Big Whale Lines and prophesies to Nineveh. Everyone repents and all is right with the world.
Until you get to Chapter 4.
You see, Jonah thought he was about to get a front row seat to watch Nineveh get destroyed because that’s what they deserved. Instead, God accepts Nineveh’s repentance and decides not to destroy them after all. Being the exceptional man of faith and power that he is, this is Jonah’s response to God in verses 2 and 3:
So he complained to the lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” (New Living Translation)
Nice right? God explains to Jonah why he took mercy on the city, but there’s no indication in the text that Jonah ever changed his mind about this.
Before we condemn Jonah too much, aren’t we a lot like him? Isn’t that at the root of a lot of the stuff going on right now? We don’t want certain people or groups to repent because they deserve judgment. We don’t want certain people included because they’re too different. They don’t think like us or talk like us or behave like us, so they’re wrong. We scour our bibles for verses to back up our beliefs. We google a hundred different memes to post on Facebook supporting our position. We’re consumed with our self-described righteous indignation and we wrap ourselves in the flag of our cause.
But what if God, in His mercy, decides to withhold judgment? What if those people who are so “not like us” repent? Would we be like Ananias was to Saul of Tarsus, who prayed and spoke a blessing over his bitterest enemy; or would we be like Jonah, who plopped down on a hillside praying for the world to end?
Just food for thought.